5 Ways Being a Mom has Made Me a Grownup

5-ways

Becoming a parent has had a bunch of consequences on my life one of which was completely unexpected… It made me an honest to god grown up.

I admit that I really believed that I was a full fledged adult when I became a mother, I was 29 for god’s sake. I surely had this life thing figured out, right? After giving birth, I soon realized that I had some personality traits that were……ahem…… not quite at their peak maturity.

family picture topeka 2016

  1. Taking care of myself

Before I was a mom I took great care of how I looked on the outside but didn’t pay much attention to how things were working on the inside. From time to time I was known to let my Thyroid medication prescription run out. I could live on candy alone, and going to bed after midnight wasn’t something I thought much of, not to mention riding on the back of scooters in third world countries. After my first was born I VOLUNTEERED to have my blood drawn to have my thyroid levels checked, even with a pretty significant fear of needles. My inner child was horrified and begged me to run, what kind of masochist had I become? I could probably still live on candy alone, but now I add a few servings of greens with my Twizzlers. I don’t even need to tell you the list of reasons that going to bed earlier is now necessary. The transition to keeping geriatric hours happened quite abruptly.

  1. Priorities

Life insurance, minivan, spf 50, cotton underwear, food allergies, buying shoes for comfort, picking meals based on how easy they are to eat with one hand, nap schedules, germs, childproof…Need I say more?

  1. Not about me

When my baby was born he was lacking certain empathetic genes that prevented him caring if I was getting enough sleep. Shockingly, he was not at all concerned. Even now, as a two year old, he can see that I am carrying his baby sister, 9 bags of groceries, the diaper bag, a toy dinosaur and the house keys and he will hand me his sippy cup because his “hands are getting cold.” There is no taking it easy on me because I am stressed out. Simply put; my kids don’t give a shit about what other demands I have, they need what they need from me and it is my job to give it to them.

  1. Clearer Understanding of Others

Being a parent has made me a better human. By no means am I implying that this is a requirement for others but apparently, it was for me. My grandmother had eleven children. That’s right, ELEVEN. I never knew her but I felt a new sense of respect for her after just one pregnancy let alone the child rearing involved. Likewise, to all of the mothers I saw walking around I wanted to give them a sincere high five or at the very least, a chest bump as a congratulations them on just gestating. As a teacher I also became more tender towards my students. When my patience would be running low I would remember that each student was someone else’s pain in the ass that they loved more than the world.

  1. Accepting no awards

This one is the hardest for me to admit and probably still the hardest one for me to deal with. When I get up five times a night to rock a sick baby who only wants her mom, there is no one there in the morning to tell me what a good job I did, no one congratulate me. When I pump breast milk while simultaneously “encouraging” a toddler and keeping my grabby baby away from the tubes attached to my chest, no one really cares. These are huge feats or sacrifices to me but this is just what moms do so I get no standing ovations, I don’t even get a “thanks” from my offspring, I just do it because I love these squishies and it is just what has to be done. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is very appreciative but when I have to list off my daily accomplishments for recognition, it sort of loses its appeal.

My kids are currently 2.5 and 8 months, so I am sure I have fully reached maturity and there are no more lessons to learn…. right?

Make Love Win

IMG_5049 - Version 2I am hesitating to look at social media after this mass shooting because I know that the same things will be there; Too many guns, not enough guns, too many foreigners, people need Jesus, we need to elect different people, pray for our country,… etc. etc.  The truth is, I have my own opinions about what should be done to help prevent senseless killings, but that is not what this is about.  Shouting my opinion is not going to change anything.  Once again, not choosing to take action won’t change things either.  I make the choice this time not to take the easy road.

The things I have learned from my own laziness are;

-It is easier to hate “those people”

-It is easier to find differences rather than similarities

-It is easier to try to be right than to listen to someone else

-It is easier to stay in a comfort zone than to reach out and meet someone new

-It is easier to cast blame than to think about what is in our control.

-It is easier to think that it is someone else’s problem to solve

-It is easier to change the channel

-It is easier to separate ourselves from the victims because you imagine they are vastly different from you

-It is easier not to think about the victims’ loved ones

-It is easier to think that it won’t happen here

-It is easier to blame the leaders for decisions made

-It is easier to think that this will be the last time

In the face of this tragedy I will be different, I can’t expect the world to change if I don’t change too, and I invite you to join me. I challenge you not to take the easy road this time, I encourage you to meet hate with love, to stretch yourself, if for no other reason than hate and blame has become terribly boring.   So when you are thinking I just wish there was something I could do, look around.  There are needs if you want to see them.

I want to do something to make someone feel valued.  We have that power, to make someone else feel like they matter in this world and they are seen.  How often I dismiss this and don’t take the opportunity.

I am certain that you have better ideas of how to accomplish this but here are a few that came to my mind.  Invite that foreign neighbor over for dinner.  Mow the elderly man’s yard.  Go onto an acquaintance’s baby registry and buy something nice.  Write a note to someone you know is hurting even though you have no idea what to say. Take a friend’s toddler on a walk so they can catch a nap.  It doesn’t have to cost money, and it doesn’t have to take your whole day.

The only way to fight the ugliness out there is by brightening our little corner of the world.  Do it in the name of love because Lord knows, there is already plenty of hate. Hate isn’t working, let’s try something different.

#makelovewin

 

German Fest 2013

I came across this unpublished blog post from 2013.  It was written mere days before I became pregnant with Benton and my life drastically changed in an instant.  I am trying not to edit these words and keep them preserved as fresh.

I am missing China a bit extra these days and I cherish these memories…

Brooke’s Visit

My cousin Brooke flew back with us and she is staying for 6 weeks!  We are having a grand time and I believe that she is enjoying herself as well.  People often ask what she is doing all day. I cannot speak for every minute but I am quite proud to announce that she has successfully read 1 book and finished all THREE seasons of Downton Abbey (that’s right ladies and gentlemen, season 3 has debued in China) other successes have included; going for runs, getting massages, napping, pedicures, and journaling.

Our social life in Shanghai is like college only better because we have regular incomes, which support our shenanigans.  Since we have been back this semester we have been out every Friday and Saturday.  Three birthday parties and a German Carnival have kept us busy.

The German Carnival was quite memorable.  Our Irish friend Patrick invited us to go with he and his wife.  He mentioned last minute that we would need costumes.  Costume parties in China are quite fun because it is so easy to have something made.  With less than a week however, we didn’t have time to have something made for the three of us.  We had to use what we had in the closet, which included an Audrey Hepburn costume (I had it made for our Christmas Party) A blue tuxedo, and an apron.  Together we were fabulous.

The party had all you could eat German food and all you could drink beer.  We had a good time.  Brooke had a wooden spoon to add to her 1950s housewife persona.  At one point while dancing, Brooke obtained a toy gun off of one of the many cowboys roaming around.  She was stirring the air with her spoon and shooting into the air and shouting proudly “I don’t know where I got this gun!”

I turned to Matt who was seemingly feeling left out of singing along to the German music.  He was making up his own lyrics with all of the things he knows about Germany.  “You have sauerkraut. You make good sausages.  You have good beer.  You lost World War II.”

Back to Brooke, she is now spanking Spiderman with the afore mentioned wooden spoon.  

Matt;  Now has a hat with fringe on it.

Brooke; using her backside as a weapon to fight super heroes.

Matt; singing loudly “You have good sausages!”  (now wearing cowboy hat.)

Brooke; Spiderman is defeated.

The night went on like this for several more hours until we finally made it home to Facetime Lynn.

Fun times. Making memories.

The Missing Three Years

We have officially been repatriated for two years.  It seems the longer it has been, the more I hold the experience close to my heart.  

When meeting a friend from high school for a drink the other day, she said to me “Why are we always talking about our kids, you lived in CHINA, let’s talk about that.”  I sat up a bit straighter and smiled.  Talking about our time abroad is one of my favorite topics but one that I hardly speak of.

Living overseas changed so much of me; the way I look at the world, my definition of family, the way I parent, the way we choose to spend money, our plans for the future, what we value for our kids, etc. etc.  I changed so much in three years.  I want to be very clear; I didn’t become better than anyone, I became a better version of myself.

We visited ten countries in three years, taught students from over 60 different countries, made amazing friends, established a community, added a baby to our family, were immersed completely in a different language and culture for three years.

Honestly, I didn’t love every minute.  In fact, there were days and weeks that I absolutely hated.  But it stretched me, challenged me, to find joy in the middle of winter when we hadn’t seen the sun for weeks.  It was a tortured relationship that I cherish.

People in my former life expect me to be the same person that they knew and loved before China and in many ways I am, but when something emerges that no longer resembles my old-self it becomes an awkwardness and time and again I find myself swallowing what I really want to say for the sake of not making myself seem pretentious.

I grew up in rural Colorado and I am very proud of these roots and it is where we happily returned to, but let’s just say there isn’t a huge population of people that can relate to our experiences abroad.  The home cooked values of this country life are a thing to respect and I cannot ignore them even if I wanted to.  One of these is a true disgust of pretension.  This translates into a problem because I don’t know how to talk about China, travel and adventure without sounding like I am being boastful.  I long to seem humble when speaking about the experience that transformed me but I am constantly at a loss for words.

I see the look on people’s faces when I mention the scooters topped with families of five careening through the back roads in Vietnam. Or how the chinese shave their babies heads so that their hair comes in thicker.   I feel obligated to defend these foreigners we encountered from the judgements of the people I am sharing my story with and because of this, the point that I am usually trying to make is lost.
The same thing happens when I mention how much I miss our Chinese nanny who had become part of the family.  It is so difficult for so many to relate to, it is a real conversation stopper, so I just don’t bring it up.  What I have learned is just because something is different doesn’t mean that it is wrong and I feel exhausted trying to explain that.  

My mom likes to remind me that I am not practicing what I preach.  These people have chosen not to live overseas or to move away from home and “just because they are different, doesn’t mean that they are wrong”  I get that.  I need to be doing a better job of getting to know people that I think I know.  At the same time I just want someone sitting in my living room say to me “I know exactly how you feel.” and mean it.

Motherhood is often lonesome.  From day to day it can feel like I am at it all alone and feeling like I am ignoring a hugely important part of my life makes it even more isolating.  My husband and I talk about Shanghai with increasing sentiment.  Approaching the second anniversary of our departure makes me miss our friends, the city and the culture intensely.  I have been having many dreams of visiting the city and the first thing I do in EVERY dream is go eat peanut noodles at my favorite place.

It is hard to answer the question “what was China like?”  but I appreciate it being asked.

Missing Shanghai and all that was, is a silent mourning and I will keep it to myself.

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Peanut noodles, pickled vegetables, spicy wontons and beef soup

 

Sweetie

The toddler has taken to calling me Sweetie from time to time.  Which is pretty adorable.  Lately, he will also shout from another room “Sweetie, don’t come in here!”  Which translates to:  Come as quickly as you can because I am doing something that I absolutely should not be doing and it is probably dangerous.

Here are a few things I have walked in on:

-Climbing the bookshelf

-Stuffing large amounts of toilet paper in the toilet

-Eating my chap-stick

-Spraying the fabreeze air freshener in his hair

-Eating popcorn he found in his toy box.  (I can’t remember the last time we made popcorn)

I love how genuinely surprised he is when I arrive at the doorway, like I somehow foiled his genius plan.  I really hope his complete inability to be sneaky lasts through adolescence.

Panty Reflections

If the state of underwear that is deemed acceptable to wear is a reflection of how one values oneself, I might need some support for my self-image.

I have been married for five years now, and while this doesn’t make me an expert on a successful marriage, it does make me knowledgeable about one very important topic; undergarments post-marriage/post-babies.  

When I got engaged, along with other parties my dear friends threw me a personal shower where I received a wide range of bras panties and lingerie. These were all beautiful indeed but since I got pregnant a year or so after I got married, the life of these dainty unmentionables is sadly over.  

I don’t have to go into detail about why they have been banished but thanks to pregnancy, let’s just say, some things are bigger, some things are smaller but all things are different. As much as I would like to pretend, none of these items will probably fit ever, ever again. May they rest in my dresser drawers, just in case, in peace.  

After being pregnant with my second child I bought some very comfortable cotton undies. I liked them so much I thought I would write a review on Amazon. I read through the other reviews and I found this gem: “When my wife put these panties on, I knew without a doubt that she never wanted to have sex with me again.” Luckily it wasn’t my husband that had written this review but none the less I got the message. While I don’t believe in wearing something just for your partner, I do believe that feeling pretty or feeling worthy of something pretty is something I am in need of these days.  Even if those pretty things is covered by yoga pants and a spit-up stained tee shirt. Looking back, I would do some things differently, and here are those thoughts in regards to panties and such.  

 

  1. Ask for IOUs instead

While I didn’t have money to spend on these things then, two kids later, I certainly don’t have money to spend on them now. I would tell my eager friends, “thank you so much for getting me prepared for marriage by buying me these sexy items, but actually please wait to buy me anything until I am done with pregnancies and breastfeeding. You are most welcome to still call it a shower if that is still your thing in five-ten years, you can also call it a clothing drive if that seems more appropriate. All I know is, at a certain point NONE of my underwear will fit all at once and I am going to need your help.

2.  Get boudoir pictures

 

Your body will never look as good as it does TODAY. So go ahead and pick one or two of those outfits you couldn’t stop friends from buying you, drink a glass of two of wine and make a friend take your pictures. You can even wrap it up in an album and call it a wedding present for your future partner.  One day I imagine completely creeping the grandkids out by showing them how lucky grandpa was when he married grandma.  

3.  Wear everything, don’t save it for a “special occasion”  

 

Even if your legs aren’t shaved and your in-laws are visiting go ahead and put the good china equivalent of your undies on. All too soon your pile of panties will resemble the rags you use to dry your car and will have clips on them for easy access (for your infant not your husband). Seize the moment you sexy thing!

Listen to Your Mother

I have some very exciting news; I have been chosen to be a part of the cast for 2016 Listen to Your Mother Boulder!  To be honest, I am having a hard time convincing myself that I am worthy but like most things I’ve done in life,  I guess I will fake it until I make it… If you are a mother or you know one, you should come to this show. Tickets are on sale now.

It is going to be pretty amazing.

http://listentoyourmothershow.com/boulder/

 

 

Baby Chicken

Today was one of those days where I know that I should have really had more patience with the toddler.  I spent a little extra snuggle time with him during bedtime and when I got up to leave I kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear that I love him and that I am proud of him.  He took his pacifier out to say something so I leaned in closer.  He whispered “I’m a baby chicken.”

It seems as though my failures are either of no consequence or I should seek out help now.  There is really no grey area.

Pee

As I was nursing my baby my son came to me to undo his pants because he had to pee. He had been potty trained for 6 months so I knew further assistance wasn’t required.  In the next moment he walked over to the ipad where he had been watching too many episodes of Daniel Tiger and He. Peed. Directly. On. The. Ipad.  

I was at a complete loss for words.  I moved as quickly as I could to him to stop the river of urine that was now splashed on the couch,  rug and all over his pants. The baby was still attached to my boob.  He finished just as I got there and said to me “Mom, my pants are wet, change them.”  I was frantically trying to wipe off the ipad so that it could survive yet another toddler encounter when he cupped my face in his little hands and said “Mom, my pants are wet, change them.” I swear that he was smiling just a little. 

Remember when…

Hey Remember that time when Matt and I left China with a newborn like bats outta hell?

Enjoy…

We came home for Christmas this year and it was a fantastic trip.  It was great to introduce Benton to so many people that love us and now him.  Leaving for the trip did not go exactly as planned.  The day we were scheduled to leave Matt had school.  He was at work and I was working on packing at home.  I had nearly everything laid out to pack but was waiting on Matt’s shoe decision before I began putting stuff into bags. The driver was going to pick us up at 4:00pm which would put us at the airport 3 hours early because we wanted to make sure we got the bulkhead seat that had a bassinet and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time for error having not traveled with a baby before.

Matt text me around 10 and said that our flight was delayed 2 hours which meant that we would miss our connecting flight in LA and we would have to stay the night there.  I was so sad.  This meant that we would miss nearly a whole day at home.  Matt got on the phone with United and after getting cut off their Skype connection more than once he THOUGHT we could get on a 1:30 flight.  This was great news…. Only it was now 11:45 and we live an hour from the airport.

Now picture the scene from Home Alone when they are late for the airport.  That was us.  Run run Rudolf should be playing in your head right now.

We packed stuff in 15 minutes.  After about 10 minutes of us running around like crazy people Xiao Ma said “you leave now?  You leave 4:00?”   When we said that we leave now she laughed at us and helped us get our stuff.  She had to come with us to the airports so she could bring the carseat back to the apartment.

We weren’t able to get the driver on such short notice so we had to get a cab.  We had 2 large checked bags, 3 maximum sized carry-on bags, 2 personal bags, a stroller, a baby, an Ayi, two adults, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Matt didn’t think it would all fit and I kept insisting.  Finally, Xiao Ma and I rode the hour to the airport with the stroller on our laps.  Who needed to see out anyway?

When we arrived at the airport Matt ran in to try and get our seats. The cab driver pulled up to the curb in the nearest lane, which was three lanes away.  The inner two lanes cleared while we were getting organized so me and my 55 year old Ayi were dragging 50lb. bags from the middle of the street to the curb, meanwhile Xiao Ma is yelling. “get the baby inside, it is too cold” (it is 48 degrees) This all wouldn’t be such a problem with roller bags but Matt insists on using duffle bags for maximum packability.  ‘It won’t be a problem Bri, I will carry them’ he says.  I digress. Matt reappears just in time to push the airport cart into the airport. I had just enough time to strap Benton in his Ergo baby carrier.  “I think we are going to make it” Matt says.  We are rushed to the front of the line and our bags are checked.  We then have to go through immigration and security and our flight was boarding.  Matt, Xiao Ma and I are running through the airport.  We paused outside of customs to tell Xiao Ma she couldn’t come with us any farther.  She kissed Benton’s head and says “I love you baby boy”.  I think she wasn’t sure if we would survive the trip.

We made it on the plane but we didn’t have seats together.  Benton was starting to share his general displeasure of the situation loudly as I found my seat.  When I wiggled my way to the window seat I unstrapped the carrier and what I found was no surprise.  My entire midsection and Benton’s whole lower half were covered in poop.  Matt had the diaper bag.  We resolved that situation while I profusely apologized to the man sitting next to me.

Matt lost his ticket stub and was sure I had it.  While I had a naked baby on my lap the flight attendant was on the intercom saying ‘there is a red bag and brown North Face jacket placed in an incorrect seat, please come collect your items or they will be removed from the aircraft’  Those are Matt’s things I think.  Matt is trying to make his way against all of the passengers trying to find their seats.  He is telling me to look for his ticket because he doesn’t know where to sit.  The man next to me offers help and he digs through my purse to find Matt’s ticket stub.  No luck.  Eventually they figure out where he should be.  (Matt finds his ticket in his pocket later)

Matt switches seats so we are able to sit next to each other for most of the flight.

Benton did amazing.  It was as if he understood that it was just temporary.   I used my nursing pillow on my lap to hold him.  He slept fairly well.  When we arrived in LA Matt tried to get coffee for both of us and I was going to hang out by the gate.  Benton woke up from his nap and was hungry NOW.  I was struggling to get the nursing cover from the bag below the stroller with a screaming baby.  I finally got it out and was nursing when Matt came back with his pants speckled in coffee. He saw the stressed look on my face and we both decided not to leave each other again while traveling.  He had dropped his coffee all over himself and it was time to board.  I interrupted nursing to get in line and when we got to the front there was a problem.  Matt was shuffled between two counters trying to get the ticket situation figured out. Finally, 15 minutes later I was burping Benton and Matt noticed white stuff on the carpet, then there was more.  His eyes made their way up and I had spit up all down my back.  Matt later said that he couldn’t believe that we were ‘those parents’ that just can’t get themselves together.  We finally made it to Denver where we were greeted by my Dad and Jackie.  We made it to Denver 6 hours earlier than our scheduled arrival.  It was worth the craziness for an extra half-day at home.